I feel the need to write this article in reverse.
Here are the Take Home Messages:
1. Medication is good — when it is taken as prescribed by a doctor.
2. Teenagers make really stupid choices — even the really smart ones.
3. The signs and symptoms will be there. You just have to know what you are looking for.
And, for my slightly off the topic commentary — We are putting too much pressure on these kids to excel. They CANNOT all get into Harvard.
Here’s the story, summarized from the New York Times:
Richard Fee was a 24 year old college grad, who according to family, had never shown or been diagnosed with A.D.H.D. He was his president of his class and had hopes of going to medical school. Fee, like many other misguided young people, was using Adderall* to increase his focus.
* Adderall is a stimulant prescribed to people who suffer from A.D.H.D. When used correctly, it can be a life changing treatment. As users realized the benefits of taking Adderall for studying and focus, it, not surprisingly started to be abused. Kids with prescribed Adderall have been known to sell their stash for cash, making the exchanges in school bathrooms. Teens have admitted to crushing the drug and snorting it before the SAT. Quite frankly, when I hear about the effects of Adderall on focus, I wonder if it could help me better manage my day. I can understand the temptation, especially for young people striving to constantly be better.
As Fee’s family learned the hardest way, Adderall can be addictive, especially when used carelessly. Richard went from doctor to doctor, faking symptoms of A.D.H.D. and getting higher and higher doses, despite apparent symptoms of addiction (see below). His family attempted to intervene, but two weeks after his supply was gone, Fee hung himself in his bedroom closet.
The doctors in this case must take some of the blame. But, as a physician, I can’t help but see in this sad case, the failings of a health system which expects providers to see an unmanageable number of patients each day. His parents did everything they could, and they were unable to save their son. Talk to your kids. Make sure they know the potential dangers of taking prescription medications without a prescription. Make sure they know these can be just as dangerous as street drugs. “Say No to Drugs” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Be more specific.
Side Effects are MUCH more likely to occur when Adderall is abused than when it is taken as prescribed.
- nervousness & restlessness
- shaking of a body part
- difficulty sleeping and staying asleep
- stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea
- dry mouth, constipation
- loss of appetite and weight loss
More serious side effects include:
- shortness of breath
- weakness or numbness of the limbs
- slowed speech
- chest pain
- verbal or motor tics
- paranoia & hallucinations
- blurred vision
- rash, hives, blistering skin, itching